I just read 2 excellent books by Kingston area authors…
Helen Humphreys became intrigued about the life of the famously private salmon-fly dresser named Megan Boyd. She was a craftswoman who worked for sixty years out of a bare-bones cottage in a small village in the north of Scotland. Machine Without Horses has a personal touch as the author explains how she imagines a character’s life without knowing many facts. I was soon looking up images of fishing flies!
Refuge by Merilyn Simonds is about 96-year-old Cass MacCallum who is living on her own when a young Burmese woman contacts her, claiming to be kin. Curiosity and loneliness prompt her to accept a visit. This meeting provokes memories which span almost a century and take the reader to New York City, Mexico, Montreal and rural Ontario.
Machine Without Horse is a small book, spare in words, complex in how much it conveys about the writer and main character. Refuge brims with generous detail, immersing the reader in a fascinating life story which is revealed layer by layer. Maybe there is no choice.. you need to read both!
One day soon it will happen. Someone is going to walk into Mill Street Books looking for a recommendation. If they are new to the store, Terry might say “I loved this book. The main character is a wonderful old geezer” Debbie would enthuse “It makes you laugh; it makes you cry and then you don’t want it to end” and Mary would explain that the setting in Cape Breton reminds her of their community. After placing the book in their hands, allowing them to read the description and get a feel for the book, that customer will set a store record. The 300th copy of The Unlikely Redemption of John Alexander MacNeil will be sold and that customer will win a bottle of prosecco!
This book’s appeal lies in its characters. John Alexander MacNeil is eighty years old. Sharp-tongued and quick-witted, he lives alone in rural Cape Breton, but he still cooks breakfast for his wife, who’s been dead for thirty years. He silently starts to question his own mind after stopping to pick up a hitchhiker — a hitchhiker who turns out to be his neighbour’s mailbox. Everything shifts, though, when Emily, a pregnant teenager, shows up at his house with no place else to go. Determined to help Emily as best as he can, John must also keep the wolves from his door and maintain some semblance of sanity.
Author Lesley Choyce lives in Halifax. Last year he wrote the store owners: “I have found it difficult to make good connections with audiences outside of Atlantic Canada. So I just wanted to write and let you know that it is much appreciated that you like the book and can share it with your customers.” When I recently contacted him regarding reaching this milestone he added: “This is a testament to the power and importance of the bookseller – especially the independent bookseller who is not only financially independent but independent of mind and spirit. It is so good to know that John Alexander MacNeil is alive and well in Almonte, Ontario. I had lost track of him in recent months and realize he’s carried his world – lock, stock and barrel of opinions and laughs – to this lively Ontario town where his voice echoes through the chambers of those readers’ minds and hearts. Long live John Alex and long live Mill Street Books!”
Almost 40% of the total sales for this book to date are through Mill Street Books. Beverley Rach of Fernwood Publishing responded that she finds it heartening to know that there are still people hand-selling books – places where readers can rely on a trusted bookseller to put a good read into their hands.
Mill Street Books is a small store with limited space so they keep close tabs on inventory and only stock between 3-4,000 titles. Owner Mary Lumsden explains “We are always looking for something unique to read – a book nobody has heard of. When I look through catalogues, I am imagining potential readers and thinking about the various interests of my kids, my friends and our local customers.” When you tell someone to read a book that you love it is like an offer of friendship that will connect you, sometimes for the rest of your lives. Personal recommendations are the life blood of independent bookstores and their value is evident when they can shine a light on a gem.
The 300th book was sold October 7th and customer Gudrun Mendzigall looked very pleased with her gift!
Captain Underpants is coming – Read the book before you see the movie!
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.
All welcome to join us for the upcoming book club on August 24 at 7pm. We meet for about an hour for an informal discussion.
Have you heard the news? The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis is becoming a movie! The Breadwinner is being produced in association with Angelina Jolie Pitt’s Jolie Pas Productions and is scheduled for completion in Summer 2017.
The first book in the Breadwinner series is an award-winning novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.
Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul. Parvana’s father — a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed — works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write.
One day, he is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.
As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.